I have bad news. It’s something we all know, but it’s something none of us want to face.
Winter is over.
(Well, for the vast majority of us.)
And now I have good news.
You can F I N A L L Y start designing your ultimate ski bum mobile for next season!
Here are some vehicle considerations you’ll need to think about. These are in no particular order because honestly, you need to be considering all of them as you make your decision—There are ups and downs to anything you choose.
1. Vehicle Budget
How much can you afford? Can you afford anything or are you stuck in your Mazda3 hatchback?
You can get a minivan or utility van for $1,000 – $8,000 depending on make, model, condition and mileage. Or you could spend the close to $10,000 for a bare Sprinter Van. Or throw caution to the wind and go with a pre-built Sprinter mansion or Sportsmobile for $50,000 – $85,000+.
Another VERY functional option is a full-sized 4×4 truck with a bed camper. You can probably find a very nice, used setup like this for the less than $10,000, largely dependent on the truck.
2. What Type of Ski Bum Are You?
The weekend warrior: This is actually the cheapest category. ANY vehicle can be a weekend warrior ski bum vehicle. Get yourself a roof rack, a 0-degree bag, and find the most comfortable place to sleep in your car. When I started out, I specifically bought a Subaru Outback because I could keep all my gear inside and still have room to lie down completely flat in the cargo area with the seats down.
Extended stays: Maybe you have an awesome time off policy at work, or you’ve just budgeted your time so that you planned several week-long vacations during ski season. In that case, you still don’t need anything more than your current vehicle, but hey, I’m not one to argue against getting a killer new toy!
Once you get to this point, you might want to start looking at something a little more luxurious. Something that guarantees you can lie down flat, keep your clothes inside, and maybe even cook a simple meal inside if you had to. Basically, you want a comfortable place to sleep and a little more room for a few more luxuries.
Full-timer: Congrats! You’re the envy of everyone else reading this article! Whether you plan on doing this for just the season or year-round, you’re going to want a lot of the comforts of home…but in a smaller package.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I know people that have lived out of their cars for 2 years, full-time, but for most of us, we want something bigger—something that can actually feel like home, even if it is still wildly more simplistic than an actual house or apartment.
You will want to consider things that you, personally, cannot live without—heat, water, TV, refrigerator, comfy bed, cooking indoors, etc. It’s all up to you, and then you need to choose a vehicle big enough to fit all of those things, within your budget.
3. Budget to Modify/Improve
For anything more than a weekend warrior (and maybe even then, depending on your current vehicle), you’re going to want to make some improvements. That is, unless you found a fully built-out ski bum mobile on Craigslist.
If you already own a truck, you can get away with making a nice vehicle with just a topper and building a sleeping platform. You may also want to look at gadgets like solar panels and battery packs so you can keep your electronics charged for entertainment purposes and get the daily snow reports.
If you went big and bought yourself a big, blank cargo van or Sprinter, you’re going to need to do a lot of upgrading. At the very least, a new subfloor and some plastic bins. But if you spent good money on a big vehicle, you’ll want more than that. You’ll want a sleeping platform, gear storage, insulation, and a kitchen. And of course, you can keep going up and up from there!
It’s all just a matter of YOUR budget and the things that are important to YOU!